The Draper Richard Foundation

Each month the AshokaTech blog features potential fundraising sources for Ashoka fellows and other social entrepreneurs. Today we feature one such resource, and dig a little deeper to explain their selection process.


Co-founded by William H. Draper, III, Robin Richards Donohoe and Jenny Shilling Stein in 2002, the Draper Richards Foundation provides its fellows with $100,000 annually for three years. Along with financial support, Draper Richards provides assistance by sitting on an organization’s board and helping to guide them through their growth from a start-up non-profit to a successful venture.

Draper Richards is highly selective, awarding six fellowships per year to the 400 – 500 applicants. Their selection criteria can be viewed on their web site, along with a list of common reasons why organizations are not considered eligible for funding.

Some reasons include:

  • Organization is a program of a larger organization, rather than a stand-alone entity.
  • Idea is not unique or is a replication of a program that already exists.
  • Idea is unfocused. The organization is trying to solve too many problems or is using too many models and programs to achive its goals.
  • Scaling plan is not viable.
  • Idea will not create systemic social change.

It should also be noted that Draper Richards will only fund an organization at the beginning of their development. That is, only at some point between its inception and having 501c3 status for three years and with an annual budget of $300,000 or less. If you are currently an Ashoka Fellow and are reading this, that means that you are likely ineligible for this fellowship. As explained by Portfolio Director Anne Marie Burgoyne, “Historically, Draper Richards Fellows are much more early stage than Ashoka Fellows. In my experience, when I look at Ashoka Fellows in the Draper Richards portfolio, they are always funded two – three years after the Draper Richards grant.”

Burgoyne also addressed the requirement that organizations be national or global in reach, stating that if an organization is currently local in scale, “We want to see that growth happen during the life of the grant.” Also, “Better fits tend to be people who, when they start the model say, ‘I want to build a national network. I want to do something that I think will have leveraged impact across multiple locations.'” This would be in comparison to one who starts a model locally and later decides that they might expand nationally or globally. “Those are different thought processes and often are different thinkers that have them,” says Burgoyne.

In planning an organization, Burgoyne stresses the importance of disciplined thinking and disciplined execution. “I just think there is a temptation to try to do too many things or help too many people. When I look at folks in the portfolio who have been passionately focused on a handful of levers in terms of social change and programatic outcomes and things that they measure, they tend overall to be more successful. They raise more money. They impact more people in ways that they can actually look at and point to. And that tends to be the bias of the foundation.”

With a staff of two, Draper Richards is not set-up to be an incubator. As such, they cannot assist with an application prior to submitting (they do not accept re-applications). However, once an applicant is in the pipeline, that is, the 20% of applicants that the staff will communicate with, the staff tries to be as helpful as possible, given time and resource constraints. Burgoyne explains, “If you have a business plan I’ll take your business plan. But if you don’t have a business plan but you can give me two or three pages that describe how your operations work, I’ll take that.” However, with only six awardees each year, “we’re really looking for the people who appear to be able to go the distance and do this work.” For those that are currently in the planning stages with their organization, they do provide links to useful resources including business plan writing, venture philanthropy organizations and general non-profit resources.

To get a better idea of exactly who Draper Richards is, one need only look at the organizations that they have funded. Draper Richards Fellows include; Kiva, the world’s first person-to-person lending marketplace for the poor; Build Change, which builds earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries and changes construction practice so that homeowners and builders continue to build earthquake-resistant houses after Build Change’s intervention is complete; and Komaza, which works to unlock the economic potential of tree farming to generate life-changing income for rural families living in absolute poverty, among others. In total, the Richard Drapers Foundation has added 26 organizations to its portfolio.

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